Natural Hair Dye: My Experiences With Henna

by Sarra Khechremi, Lifestyle Columnist

Published in Lifestyle on 4th February, 2020

Do you struggle with covering grey hair? Are you sick from bleaching your hair with chemical hair dye? Are you stuck with damaged dry hair because you have been coloring it over and over again?

I know how it feels. Been there, done that. But luckily and after thorough research, I found the solution to my hair. And you can too.

henna powder

What is the best natural hair dye?

I've been bleaching my hair for 5 years. Because of chemical hair dye, my hair was extremely damaged, dry, difficult to manage full of split ends and constantly breaking off.

In addition, I suffered from untreatable hair loss; I tried all the remedies, from hair loss pills to different oils but none of them has worked. As a result, my hair could never grow long or healthy.

I was devastated trying to save my hair, I thought to myself "If I could only find a natural hair dye which lasts and is healthy for my hair as well".

After thorough research, I figured out that the best natural and cruelty-free hair dye I can use is Henna.

Henna is a natural non-toxic, chemical-free hair dye - perfect to use on bleached or non-bleached hair. It's one of the oldest dyes in the world which has been used since antiquity to dye hair, skin, fingernails and even fabric.

It is known that henna was used in ancient Egypt and Cleopatra herself used to dye her hair with henna for beauty.

Henna is still popular today, many women and men still use it for its radiant permanent color and health benefits it's a perfectly safe way to dye your hair naturally and to cover grey hair.

The best part of using henna is that you don't have to go to a hair salon to have that perfect shiny color without damaging your hair, you can simply dye your hair with henna at home using only the simplest means.

What is henna?

Henna also is known as Lawsonia inermis, is a flowering plant. It's a large bush or small tree, which can grow up to 6 meters high in hot and dry climates. Henna was used to keep hair healthy, long and to cover gray hair.

In North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asian culture, henna is used for celebrating weddings and happy occasions. It's spiritually known as a magickal plant, as it attracts good luck, prosperity, and abundance. It's mostly used on the skin as a henna tattoo.

Henna is grown in hot and dry climates such as North Africa and South Asia. It's not grown in Europe or America and has never been widely used there. In the 19th century, during the period of European colonial expansion, European travelers brought henna to Europe.

Products as henna, carpets, and tea were traded as exotic goods. Because of this, the use of henna was associated with exotic beauty.

Many western wealthy women of the 19th century dyed their hair with henna to get a long, silky, and thick burgundy red hair. They admired the fact that hennaed hair had an exotic mystery to it.

Madame Patti, a famous Victorian opera soprano, was the first woman to launch henna into the European fashion mainstream. She was a beauty icon in the 1900s, women longed to be like her and men threatened to kill themselves for her.

What is henna powder made of?

Henna leaves are harvested, dried, and then powdered. When purchasing henna online or in stores it's sold in its powdered form. The pinkish flowers from the henna plant have a strong sweet fragrance to them. The juice from the flowers is mainly used in perfumes and essential oils.

Henna's leaves contain lawsone. It's a red-orange dye molecule, also known as hennotannic acid. That's why the henna plant is called Lawsonia Inermis. Henna leaves have from 1% to 4% lawsone. Lawsone is the ingredient responsible for the red orangy stain in henna.

henna hair powder

The highest percentage of Lawsone in henna leaves the darker the red it will be. This depends on the area where it's grown and harvested. The warmer the climate the redder it will be. Because lawsone absorbs UV lights. For example, Henna harvested and grown in Yemen is darker than the henna from Morocco.

Henna is sold in many colors online and in stores. Beware of these colors as henna in its purest form is a green powder and can only dye your hair shades of red.

They mix it with harmful chemicals to make it change its color which is dangerous for your hair especially if it has been bleached before. Henna is 100% natural if it's a green powder with a significant smell. It smells earthy and natural. After mixing it into a thick paste, it releases a red stain which can be messy if you are not careful enough.

However, henna can be mixed with other natural hair dyes like Indigo or cassia.

Indigo is a plant with blue dye molecule. If you combine henna and indigo, you will get dark brown hair dye. This will darken the henna and remain healthy for your hair as well.

To lighten henna you can mix it with Cassia. Cassia is a plant as well. Its powder looks similar to the henna powder. when mixed with lemon juice it gives a golden color to the hair. Cassia and henna mixed together, make a strawberry blonde hair to pale coppery red hair.

Lawsone reacts to the protein in skin and hair. It gradually migrates from the henna into the hair shaft and bonds with the keratin molecules, which makes it a long process and results in a permanent stain that lasts.

Can henna dye grey hair?

In addition to its healthy properties, henna was initially used to dye grey hair. During the late Victorian era, many women used henna to keep their hair thick and to cover the gray while maintaining their luxurious chignon.

Henna is the perfect vegan remedy to easily cover the annoying grey hairs. It will give you a light coppery red color when applied the first time.

henna dye grey hair

If applied regularly not only it will darken the roots but it will strengthen them and give you a thicker more vibrant color. It makes your hair shinier, blends perfectly with your natural hair color which makes it look like natural highlights.

So, how to dye your hair with henna mix?

Unlike chemical hair dyes, Henna will not lighten dark hair. It will only enhance the natural tones of your hair. The color you'll get depends on the initial color of your hair.

  • If your hair is blonde, after using henna you'll get a light coppery red.
  • If your hair is red you'll get a more vivid red that will enhance your red hair.
  • If you are a brunette your hair color will be auburn to burgundy red.
  • If you have black hair the color of your hair will not change but you will get burgundy red highlights.

This is where the beauty of henna lies, it enhances your natural beauty and helps you embrace it.

Henna hair for beginners doesn't have to be intimidating or scary. It is a long messy process indeed. But it is easy to mix, easy to apply, and easy to dye your hair at home with.

Let's learn how to dye hair with henna together.

  • Before mixing henna, you'll need the simplest tools: gloves, rubber icing spatula, a wooden spoon, a bowl, and if you want a brush. I don't recommend using a squeeze bottle as henna paste is a lot thicker than chemical hair dye and it will make it difficult to apply.
  • Don't use metal tools. As metal itself has molecules that will interfere with the process of releasing the dye.
  • If your hair is bleached, then body art quality henna is wonderful for your hair. It is perfectly safe to use if the henna is pure.

When it comes to mixing your henna paste, it depends on your preference and depends on the color you want:

  • Henna + lemon juice: This mix will lighten your hair, henna will stain your hair reddish-orange. However, using too much lemon juice mixed with henna will make your hair really dry afterward.
  • Henna + red or black tea: This will give you darker red hair and dark red tones.
  • Henna + coffee: This will make the color of your hair more likely to be brownish red but I warned you, the smell afterward is not so pleasant.
  • Henna + beetroot juice: this mix will give you more of a burgundy red tones.
  • Henna + Hot water: This will give you the most natural effect and color. which is coppery red if died on light blonde or white hair. It will not change the color of the dye released from Lawsonia as well.
henna hair paste

I personally mix my henna paste with just hot boiling water. Here's what I do:

In a container, I put henna powder. The quantity depends on your hair length and if you are going to dye only your roots or your whole hair. Then I mix it with boiling hot water using a wooden spoon.

  • Be careful to not add too much liquid because your paste will be too runny and will be annoying when you apply it and too messy as well.
  • You do not want your mix to dry out if you apply an insufficient amount of liquid - Henna only stains when wet.
  • To get the consistency right, add the liquid a little at a time. Add more liquid, If the mixture is too thick. If the mixture is too runny you can add more henna powder.
  • After having the right consistency which should be not too runny nor too thick, you need to cover your paste tightly with plastic foil. By doing this you make sure the air doesn't penetrate into the paste. We don't want the henna mixture to dry out because if it happens it'll not release the red dye and eventually won't dye your hair.
  • It is important to leave your henna mixture to rest for at least 2 hours if its in a warm place. If it's winter for example and your house is not too warm, it's better to leave it overnight in the warmest spot in your house.
  • When you see orangy-red dye released from your henna mixture, that's when your henna paste is ready for application.

How to apply henna on grey, bleached or non-bleached hair?

  • When applying henna it is better to start with damp hair.
  • Protect your skin from stains by applying some oil on the skin around your hairline and ears. Always use gloves.
  • If you get henna on your skin wipe it away immediately.
  • Wear old ugly clothes that you don't mind if they get stained.
  • Don't get henna mixture on furniture and carpet as it will never go off.
  • Work with individual sections of your hair. Henna is a thick hair dye, which makes it difficult to spread it all over your head.

Is henna good for your hair?

If you are thinking: "Hmm, should I dye my hair with henna ?" The perfect answer is it depends if you're ready to put the work and commitment to henna.

Choosing to use henna on your hair is a real commitment. As the color is permanent and is so hard to disappear. Even if you dye your hair with chemical dye, the color of henna will still shine through.


The only way to get rid of it is to wait until your hair grows and then cut off the hennaed part of your hair.

Henna is extremely healthy for your hair. It's a good natural hair dye which is cruelty-free and completely vegan. It doesn't cause any harm to the environment and is not tested on animals.

This herb was used thousands of years ago and is still used today, for its medicinal properties. Henna is a medicinal plant used for:

  • Relieving headaches and migraines.
  • Treating a variety of skin conditions such as eczema, fungal or bacterial skin infections.
  • Drawing out fever.
  • Regulating blood pressure.

In addition to a beautiful color, henna is really GOOD for your hair because:

  • Henna promotes healthy hair growth by healing cuticles that have been damaged by chemical hair dye. Making the light reflect off your hair which provides you with shiny hair.
  • Improves hair health by thickening the roots of your hair, prevents hair loss, and provides you with longer thicker hair.
  • It is the best treatment for dandruff.
  • Henna gives you the shiny silky hair, our ancestors knew all its secrets a long time ago.

How often should you henna your hair?

Henna is a herbal hair dye chemical free and lasts an extremely long time compared to conventional dyes. In addition to that, it has healing benefits.

You can apply henna on your hair as many times as you want, it will not damage your hair. In fact, henna will heal and make your hair thicker if applied regularly on the roots and hair.

henna hair

However, note that the more you use henna the darker your hair will be.

Should I shampoo my hair after henna? how long should I let henna sit? And is it okay to leave henna on overnight?

A list of Do's and don'ts for using henna will be very helpful and hopefully, it will answer all your questions.


  • Wash your hair with shampoo 48 hours after dying your hair with henna. It will interfere with the process and with the bonding of the molecules of Lawsonia with the protein in your hair. As a result, you'll have less vibrant.
  • Don't make an egg mask or a protein mask on your hair. The Lawsonia molecules will bond with the protein in the mask and will lighten the henna. This will give you an uneven hair color.
  • Don't wash your hair 48 hours after henna. All-natural remedies take a longer time to give you the desired results. as opposed to chemical hair dye.
  • Don't condition your hair before using henna. it will cover the hair shaft which makes it harder to henna molecules to penetrate the hair.
  • Don't put oils in your henna mixture, it will interfere with the process and can make it take longer time than it actually needs.


  • Leave the mixture to rest as it releases dye and it can color the hair.
  • Always apply henna on clean hair - After washing your hair with shampoo.*
  • Like all-natural remedies, it takes time for henna to stain your hair. It is a good idea to leave it on your hair for at least 2 hours well covered in plastic foil.
  • It's OK to leave the henna on your hair overnight. It's completely safe however it will give you a much deeper and darker color and it will be very uncomfortable to sleep in.
  • Time's up! You need to rinse your hair from henna! "Mermaid your hair" - To make the process easier by putting your head in a sink or large container full of water.
  • Always use conditioner and a comb when rinsing the henna out of your hair.
  • Henna can make your hair a little bit dry, use olive oil or other natural oils to hydrate your hair.

Enjoy natural healthy hair with amazing color and be ready for strangers on the street approaching you to tell you how beautiful your hair is!

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